It’s an unassuming storefront on 87A East Houston Street where VK Nagrani just opened for business last week after relocating from a store space further uptown. A quick glance inside the demure shop, entirely designed by Hecho Design Group, reveals a vending machine full of socks, a small rack of ready-to-wear garments, and a smattering of bits and bobs like $200 nail clippers and pocket-sized hangover kits.
However, if you know where to look behind the bar, a thin staircase leads discerning male shoppers to a subterranean studio where VK Nagrani comes to life. “Status things don’t belong here,” Vivek “VK” Nagrani said as we sat down in his eponymous man cave. “You come purely based on your character. I love legendary people who do great shit without thinking, ‘How much am I going to make?’ Great people don’t talk about that. Our guy is not the guy who followed pre-programmed path to success, but paved his own path. He didn’t attend X school or X college and take a job at Goldman.”
The space is a boys club where titans of industry come to luxuriate. They sample small batch whiskeys out of hand-blown glasses Nagrani found in Detroit, hit the links on a small outdoor putting green, and select garments like a two-tone suede moto jacket and accessories that include hand painted pocket squares and $1,000 Vicuna socks. If they choose to pay using their American Express “Centurion” black card, which infamously requires a $250,000 minimum annual spend, they are fined $250 to be donated to a cause of their choice. It’s a space where frivolity reigns and celebrities aren’t given special treatment. “There’s nobody out there who is that cool anymore,” he added. “George Clooney? He’s okay, but our guy is Bruce Wayne. He has style. It’s not about fashion, because guys who try to be fashionable often look like morons. You have to be naturally stylish.”
Style is innate for Nagrani himself, who has no pedigree in design. He comes from a seasoned retail family, but is untrained technically. His personal tastes and lifestyle guide his designs, which appeal to a certain caché of men who live similarly. “I started doing this because other brands never made me feel a certain way, so this is all modeled after what I wanted clothing to yield,” he said as “Puttin’ on The Ritz” played quietly. “A seasonless, masculine, unique way of thinking about clothing. You can’t gouge the consumer and pedal generic stuff hoping they’ll buy into it. This store brings to life an old way of thinking that needs to come back to menswear, because we have totally lost that sense of masculinity. Have we become a world that finds satisfaction in buying shit out of a box? No wonder people are so lonely.”